Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Triple Crown Part IV

It's been a long time since one of my Triple Crown posts.  And, now that the season's over (congratulations, Giants), I think it's time for another - especially since we actually saw a Triple Crown this year!  Very exciting stuff.  As I've mentioned in at least two posts, I support Mike Trout for MVP... but that doesn't mean that Miguel Cabrera shouldn't be celebrated for an outstanding season!

One of my old sawhorses is looking at alternative Triple Crowns.  There's an article at the Hardball Times about the old-school-new-school debate.  Frankly, I'm sick of it, because it seems to me that it's mostly settled - but then again, I hang around in "new school" circles on these here internets.  And while I understand that it's not true for most people, my guess is that, in 20-30 years, baseball fandom will look quite different from how it looks now.  Kids who have grown up with WAR and WPA and REW will not mind those stats.  Anyway, the reason I'm bringing this up at all is that the aforementioned Hardball Times article has an interesting comment from a reader.  That reader (TomH) says the following:

"WAR is too complicated for a stattha most will be able to get a handle on. We ought to start but getting old-schoolies to acknowledge that OBP is far batter than AVG, and that scoring is as important as driving them in. That the ‘triple crown’ (TC) wasn’t drawn up by Moses (pre-Ruth it was irrelevant), and a better measure of offesnive breadth (what the TC tries ot capture) would be OBP, R and RBI, or OBP, SLG, and R+RBI, or OBP, HR, and R+RBI."

I left it as was, typos and all.  So while I think "stattha" means "stat that," one can never be sure.  Anyway, He makes a good point that the TC, if it tries to measure anything (my response would be that it's artificially constructed, and doesn't try to do anything at all), it's breadth of offensive statistics.  Not to mention the idea that there's one stat which is an "average" and two counting stats - and one of those stats involves power, the other, runs.  Anyway, I got really curious about the ideas he mentioned as possibilities as a "replacement" Triple Crown.  So lets go through them, one-by-one, since 1893.

Mike Schmidt (PHI), 1981 - .435/78/91
Carl Yastrzemski (BOS), 1967 - .418/112/121
Frank Robinson (BAL), 1966 - .410/122/122
Ted Williams (BOS), 1949 - .490/150/159
Stan Musial (STL), 1948 - .450/135/131
Ted Williams (BOS), 1947 - .499/125/114
Ted Williams (BOS), 1942 - .499/141/137
Ted Williams (BOS), 1941 - .553/135/120
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1926 - .516/139/146
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1923 - .545/151/131
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1922 - .459/141/152
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1921 - .512/177/171
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1921 - .458/131/126
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1920 - .532/158/137
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1919 - .456/103/114
Gavvy Cravath (PHI), 1915 - .393/89/115
Sherry Magee (PHI), 1910 - .445/110/123
Ty Cobb (DET), 1909 - .431/116/107
Nap Lajoie (PHA), 1901 - .463/145/125

Albert Pujols (STL), 2009 - .443/.658/259
Todd Helton (COL), 2000 - .463/.698/285
Larry Walker (COL), 1997 - .452/.720/273
Frank Thomas (CHW), 1994 - .487/.729/207
Barry Bonds (SFG), 1993 - .458/.677/252
Barry Bonds (PIT), 1992 - .456/.624/212
Mike Schmidt (PHI), 1981 - .435/.644/159Joe Morgan (CIN), 1976 - .444/.576/228
Dick Allen (CHW), 1972 - .420/.603/203
Carl Yastrzemski (BOS), 1970 - .452/.592/227
Willie McCovey (SFG), 1969 - .453/.656/227
Carl Yastrzemski (BOS), 1967 - .418/.622/133
Frank Robinson (BAL), 1966 - .410/.637/244
Willie Mays (SFG), 1965 - .398/.645/234
Duke Snider (BRO), 1956 - .399/.598/213
Ted Williams (BOS), 1951 - .464/.556/235
Ralph Kiner (PIT), 1951 - .452/.627/233
Ted Williams (BOS), 1949 - .490/.650/309
Stan Musial (STL), 1948 - .450/.702/266
Ted Williams (BOS), 1947 - .499/.634/239
Ted Williams (BOS), 1942 - .499/.648/278
Ted Williams (BOS), 1941 - .553/.735/255
Jimmie Foxx (BOS), 1938 - .462/.704/314
Lou Gehrig (NYY), 1936 - .478/.696/319
Lou Gehrig (NYY), 1934 - .465/.706/293
Chuck Klein (PHI), 1933 - .422/.602/221
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1926 - .516/.737/285
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1925 - .489/.756/276
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1924 - .513/.729/264
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1923 - .545/.764/282
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1922 - .459/.722/293
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1921 - .512/.846/342
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1921 - .458/.639/257
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1920 - .532/.847/295
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1920 - .431/.559/190
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1919 - .456/.637/217
Ty Cobb (DET), 1917 - .444/.570/209
Gavvy Cravath (PHI), 1915 - .393/.510/201
Ty Cobb (DET), 1909 - .431/.517/223
Honus Wagner (PIT), 1909 - .420/.489/192
Honus Wagner (PIT), 1908 - .415/.542/209
Honus Wagner (PIT), 1907 - .408/.513/180
Nap Lajoie (CLE), 1904 - .413/.546/194
Honus Wagner (PIT), 1904 - .423/.520/172
Nap Lajoie, (PHA), 1901 / .463/.643/270

Albert Pujols (STL), 2009 - .443/.47/259
Larry Walker (COL), 1997 - .452/49/273
Barry Bonds (SFG), 1993 - .458/46/252
Mike Schmidt (PHI), 1981 - .435/31/159
Dick Allen (CHW), 1972 - .420/37/203
Harmon Killebrew (MIN), 1969 - .427/49/226
Willie McCovey (SFG), 1969 - .453/45/227
Carl Yastrzemski (BOS), 1967 - .418/44/133
Frank Robinson (BAL), 1966 - .410/49/244
Willie Mays (SFG), 1965 - .398/52/234
Duke Snider (BRO), 1956 - .399/43/213
Ralph Kiner (PIT), 1951 - .452/42/233
Ted Williams (BOS), 1949 - .490/43/309
Ted Williams (BOS), 1947 - .499/32/239
Ted Williams (BOS), 1946 - .497/.667/265
Ted Williams (BOS), 1942 - .499/36/278
Ted Williams (BOS), 1941 - .553/37/255
Mel Ott (NYG), 1938 - .442/36/232
Lou Gehrig (NYY), 1936 - .478/49/319
Lou Gehrig (NYY), 1934 - .465/49/293
Chuck Klein (PHI), 1933 - .422/28/221
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1926 - .516/47/285
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1925 - .489/39/276
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1924 - .513/46/264
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1923 - .545/41/282
Rogers Hornsby (STL), 1922 - .459/42/293
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1921 - .512/59/342

Babe Ruth (NYY), 1920 - .532/54/295
Babe Ruth (NYY), 1919 - .456/29/217
Gavvy Cravath (PHI), 1915 - .393/24/201
Ty Cobb (DET), 1909 - .431/9/223
Nap Lajoie, (PHA), 1901 - .463/14/270

Well, that was fun.  Hope you liked it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

2012 IBAs

Hurray!  Here we are again, ladies and gentlemen.  It's IBA (Internet Baseball Awards) time!  That means, for the second straight year, I'll be publishing my ballot (here's last years).  So, before I break it all down, here are my award winners:

AL Manager

1. Bob Melvin
2. Buck Showalter
3. Robin Ventura

Three guys who did a great job putting up better years than were expected of their teams.  I think Baltimore is more likely a fluke than Oakland, and I think the Oakland job (with all those rookie pitchers) was, in some ways, the more difficult, and it was (turns out) in the more difficult division.  So, as long as this is the "who's the manager of the team that overachieved the most?" award, I'm gonna go Melvin.  Although I don't fault anyone for the logic that, "If you had said before the season started that the O's would finish with 93 wins and in the postseason, I would have handed my vote to Showalter that day."  He's a fine choice, Ventura's a fine choice.  Pretty much anyone's a fine choice, so long as he's not Bobby Valentine or Ned Yost.

NL Manager

1. Bud Black
2. Davey Johnson
3. Mike Matheny

Seriously, Manager of the Year is a stupid award.  We simply don't know enough about managers to evaluate them well.  But the Padres were WAY better than I thought they'd be.  Probably because of Chase Headley.  But maybe because of Bud (or as calls him, "Buddy") Black.  Johnson led the Nationals (seriously, the WASHINGTON NATIONALS) to the playoffs behind the best pitchers in baseball.  Again, I don't know how much that was him, but maybe some of it.  Matheny gets added because, frankly, who saw the Cards being basically exactly the same team as last year, only without any of the players or LaRussa?  I'm tempted to put Matheny at #1, but I think this whole award is a crapshoot, so he wound up third.  Meh.

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Mike Trout
2. Yoenis Cespedes
3. Yu Darvish
4.  Matt Moore
5.  Will Middlebrooks

The Mike Trout Show begins.  Cespedes and Darvish were great.  Moore succeeded in spite of high expectations.  Middlebrooks was one of the few bright spots for a bad Red Sox team.  All good players.  And there well could have been a few A's pitchers on here, too.

NL Rookie of the Year

1.  Bryce Harper
2.  Wade Miley
3.  Norichika Aoki
4.  Martin Maldonado
5.  Zack Cozart

Harper or Miley... Harper or Miley.  I go with Harper here, because he's more likely to have the better career.  Aoki and Cozart are a little bit of a stretch, because they're both "old" rookies.  Aoki came out of pretty much nowhere though, and completely made up for Nyjer Morgan's regression to... Nyjer Morgan, and allowed for Corey Hart to move to 1B.  Now, were I not a Brewers fan, I wouldn't know that.  But I am.  So there.  Maldonado replaced Jonathan Lucroy well.  And he made George Kottaras cuttable (<----not a word).  For people who think I'm being a homer, yes.  But at least I found a way to keep Mike Fiers off the ballot, even though he may be my favorite of the crop (although I LOVE all three of the Brew Crew rookies).
AL Cy Young
1.  Justin Verlander
2.  David Price
3.  Felix Hernandez
4.  Max Scherzer
5.  Chris Sale

Verlander, with the exception of his W-L record, was EXACTLY the same pitcher this year as last year.  David Price this year was not as good as Justin Verlander last year.  How anyone can vote Price the Cy winner is beyond my understanding.  That said, Price was phenomenal.  King Felix was himself.  That's pretty much a 3rd-place vote, guaranteed.  We'll see how he adjusts to new field dimensions in Seattle next year, when the fences get moved in.  My guess?  His ERA goes up, but he's basically the same guy.  It'll be interesting to watch.  Scherzer was great, and underrated, too, for the Tigers this year.  Lots and lots of strikeouts. Chris Sale had a nice year.  Don't know if he'll repeat it, but it doesn't matter.  There were lots of other great guys (Matt Harrison, Jake Peavy, Hideki Kuroda, Yu Darvish, Jered Weaver, and that whole fleet of A's pitchers).  I like these five best.

NL Cy Young
1.  RA Dickey
2.  Cliff Lee
3.  Clayton Kershaw
4.  Stephen Strasburg
5.  Craig Kimbrel

There's really no easy answer, and Dickey's the best story.  I really wanted to vote for Cliff Lee, because it would have been awesome for a player who was that unlucky to win the award.  And Lee was outstanding - just unlucky.  Strasburg is my more "unconventional" choice.  He was great.  the 160 inning-thing was not his fault.  And yes, that's throwing Craig Kimbrel a bone at the end.  He was too good not to get a vote.  I don't think I'm being controversial for leaving off Gio Gonzalez and Johnny Cueto.  I just don't think they were as good as the other four starters.  They were more valuable than Kimbrel, but it's not his fault how he gets used, and I think he deserves a sympathy vote more than they need one for getting to 20 "wins."  Frankly, though, if you were to tell me that I'm a fool for leaving them off because they were both better than Dickey... well... I don't know that you'd be wrong.  Unlike last year, which had three deserving winners, this year has no candidate at all who stands out.  Also, shout-outs to Kris Medlen and Jordan Zimmerman, whom I also really wanted to vote for.  And it would have been nice to toss a vote to Aroldis Chapman, as well.  So that's 10 guys, none of whom could really be "wrong."  Yup.  That's 2012 in the NL.

*A quick aside, before we get to the MVP votes.  No pitchers on my ballots this year, except Verlander.  While a lot of guys had great years, there were too many inseparable offensive players, in my opinion, and no compelling reason to give a vote to a pitcher.  That's not good logic.  I know that.  I know it, and I don't care.  It's my ballot. Go cast your own.  {On second thought, don't.  Because voting ends tonight, Monday the 22nd}
AL Most Valuable Player

1.  Mike Trout
2.  Miguel Cabrera
3.  Robinson Cano
4.  Adrian Beltre
5.  Alex Gordon
6.  Austin Jackson
7.  Ben Zobrist
8.  Josh Willingham
9.  Justin Verlander
10.  Joe Mauer

Yeah, I don't really want to have "the talk."  You know - the one about whether Trout was better than Cabrera.  They both had great seasons.  Trout was better.  Cabrera won the Triple Crown.  Both seasons aren't likely to be forgotten.  When (not if) Cabrera wins the BBWAA MVP award, it will be no great injustice.  As in many previous years, the best player may not win.  As in most previous years, a deserving player is winning.  This is not Fingers in '81, or Hernandez in '84, or Eckersley in '92, or even an equally bad choice not involving a relief pitcher.  It'll be a great player getting a great award.  Miguel Cabrera has probably been the second-best player in the AL for like 4 years in a row... it's just been someone different on top each year.  It's no great sin that he'll win.  Heck, I'm happy for both guys.
As for my down-the-ballot choices, what stinks is that this Trout-Cabrera hubbub has distracted from a lot of great seasons by other players.  Cano had a wacky year, but I'm willing to file the weird RBI totals as just bad luck this year, because Cano's been (historically) a good clutch hitter, not a bad one.  Beltre's always been great.  Gordon had a breakout year.  Jackson and Zobrist have been themselves:  great in the field, solid with the bat.  Jackson continues to be a BABIP monster - maybe the greatest player of all time, adjusting for era, at getting on with balls in play.  Verlander gets a ninth-place vote.  There are two Twins in my top ten.  That looks wrong.  But then you look at Willingham's and Mauer's years.  They were great.  Almost any team would be lucky to have them.

NL Most Valuable Player

1.  Ryan Braun
2.  Andrew McCutchen
3.  Buster Posey
4.  Chase Headley
5.  Yadier Molina
6.  David Wright
7.  Jason Heyward
8.  Michael Bourn
9.  Aramis Ramirez
10.  Joey Votto

Remember how Votto had the award locked up before he got hurt?  I honor that with a 10th-place vote.  For me, the MVP was Braun.  Dealing with all the steroids BS (you don't know what he did or didn't do, no matter what you think), hearing that he'd regress without Fielder, and basically carrying what was a BAD club offensively and keeping them competitive for half the season makes him deserve the award, in my opinion.  But really, 1-6 were all the same player.  Pick one.  You're not wrong.  Heyward and Bourn... it's too close to call between the two of them.  I like both, but I'm giving Heyward the nod.  As for Ramirez, here's a neat little fact for you, going away:

Most XBH (extra-base-hits) in MLB this year:

Miguel Cabrera - 84
Robinson Cano - 82
Ryan Braun - 80
Albert Pujols - 80
Aramis Ramirez - 80
Well, I hope you like the ballot.  Got any comments?  Feel free to post a link to yours - I'd love to read it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Postseason Baseball

Who's excited?  I know I am.  If you're not, watch this.  It gave me chills.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Win Estimators, or Why Baseball and Football are Different

What would it take for you to believe that a Major League Baseball team went undefeated? I mean in terms of runs scored and allowed. Like, if those were the only two pieces of information you had, what would they need to be (or be like) for you to believe a season was undefeated?  I think, for me, it would take something pretty incredible - like allowing no runs for the entire season (or, like 10).  Because, even if a team scored like 4000 runs, but gave up 500... well, don't you think it's possible that they'd lose, I don't know... 2 or 3 games?  The basic Pythagorean formula (Runs squared over (runs squared plus runs allowed squared)) says a team like that would go 159.5-2.5 (I guessed two or three games before doing the calculation, by the way, so I'm pretty proud of that guess).  And that seems about right, doesn't it?  I mean, even with a run differential that big, you'd still expect to lose a game or two.  Which, in the scheme of a 162-game season, is nothing.  But the point is, the run differential it would take to believe in an undefeated baseball season is astronomical.  I mean, this hypothetical team, which averages a 25-3 game, could hypothetically lose 12-11 twice or thrice during the year, right?

But football is fundamentally different, because it takes place in a small sample size.  For example, if I told you a team scored 400 points on the season, and gave up only 50, well, you'd assume they went undefeated.  And you'd probably be right.  The pythagorean formula agrees with this one.  Because it predicts this team to go 15.75-.25... so yeah.  They'd probably go undefeated.

But what if we double their points allowed?  What if they scored 400, and gave up 100?  That's an average score of 25-10... but would they go undefeated?  The Pythagorean formula says they'd go 15-1.  My guess is, in an NFL where the average team scores 22 points/game (close to the historical average, and in fact just behind the average for 2011 of 22.2), that's  probably about right.  But, frankly, in a league where an average team scores 22 ppg, 400 points isn't that many (average team would score 352).  So we'd expect the offense to fail once in the season, even if the defense is tough.

Anyway, why are we talking about this?  I mean, who cares?

Well, I do.  Because here are some real numbers.  I'm going to list the team, their points scored/allowed, Pythag. record, and then actual record.  Here goes:
2007 Patriots - 589-274; 13.8-2.2; 16-0
1985 Bears - 456-198; 14.1-1.9; 15-1
1998 Vikings - 556-296; 13.1-2.9; 15-1
1972 Dolphins - 385-171; 12.2-1.8; 14-0
2008 Lions - 268-517; 2.8-13.2; 0-16
1976 Buccaneers - 125-412; .8-13.2; 0-14

What you see here is that it's basically impossible, by the Pythagorean formula, to ever expect an undefeated season in the NFL . . . or a winless one.  The reason is because of a quirk of the Pythagorean formula, in which the PSsq/(PSsq+PAsq) will only yield a 0 if the team scores no points, and will only yield 100 if the team allows no points.  But the truth is, teams do go undefeated.  So it makes no sense to use a quadratic equation when we know that football doesn't quite work that way.

So what do I suggest we do about this?  Well, it's a pretty easy solution, actually.  You go linear.  And how does one do that?  Like so:
Use the information we already have.
Figure out the number of points/game.
That's all you need.
Take the team's points differential.  Divide by 2*(ppg).  Add to half of the number of games in a season.  That's it.

For example, in 2007, all NFL teams scored 11104 points.  If we divide that by 32 (number of teams), by 16 (number of games), and then multiply by two (because two teams play in each game), we get 43.375 as the number of ppg.  The Patriots that year had a points differential of (589-274=)315 points.  315/43.375=7.26 wins, plus 8 (a half-season's worth) = 15.26 wins.  So, by my formula, we'd expect the 2007 Patriots to have gone 15.3-.7... which is much closer to their actual record of 16-0 than the Pythagorean expectation, which gave them less than 14 wins (13.8).

Here are the expectations for the other teams I mentioned:
1985 Bears - 14.0-2.0
1998 Vikings - 14.1-1.9
1972 Dolphins - 12.3-1.7
2008 Lions - 2.3-13.7
1972 Bucs - -.4-14.4

Yes, that is a negative expectation of wins for the 1972 Buccaneers.  They were that bad.  In every case, this linear method comes closer to the team's actual record (for the Vikings, it's one full win closer!), except the 1985 Bears, which my method misses by .1 wins more than the classic way of doing it.  Frankly, I don't really see how anyone could use the Pythagorean method when one could do this, which is just as easy, works the same for middle-of-the-pack teams, and works significantly better for teams at the periphery.